"Sit down before a fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion. Follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing." -- T. H. Huxley
"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." -- Albert Einstein
"If you are unmoved by the suffering of others you are not worthy of the name human being." -- Sa'di, Persian poet
“We’re preprogrammed to reach out. Empathy is an automated response over which we have limited control .... Biology constitutes our greatest hope. One can only shudder at the thought that the humaneness of our societies would depend on the whims of politics, culture or religion." -- Franz de Waal
"My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims." -- The Dalai Lama
"The Church of Rome ... has made it an article of faith that no man can be saved outside of their church, and all other religious sects approach this dreadful opinion in proportion to their ignorance, and the influence of ignorant or wicked priests." -- John Adams
"The desire of well-doing which is engendered by a life according to reason, I call piety." --Baruch Spinoza
"I came to the conclusion long ago ... that all religions were true, and also that all had some error in them." --Mohandas K. Gandhi
"It is forbidden to decry other sects; the true believer gives honor to whatever in them is worthy of honor." --Asoka, Emperor of India (d. 238 B.C.), a decree inscribed on a pillar
"Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that carry them apart." -- Confucius
"... as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." -- The Book of Matthew, 25:40. (A sentiment expressed more recently and succinctly by Walt Whitman: "Whoever degrades another degrades me.")
"Hate the sin and love the sinner." --Mohandas K. Gandhi
"... But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well." --The Book of Matthew, 5:39-40
"... shake off all the fears of servile prejudices under which weak minds are severely crouched .... you must lay aside all prejudice on both sides, and neither believe nor reject any thing because any other person, or description of persons have rejected or believed it." --Thomas Jefferson
"Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what’s wrong and what’s right;
But when asked how ’bout something to eat
They will answer in voices so sweet
'You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.'"
-- from Joe Hill's song "The Preacher and the Slave"
"The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly absurd; indeed ... a widespread belief is more often likely to be foolish than sensible."
"The teacher should love his children better than his State or his Church; otherwise he is not an ideal teacher."
"Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth -- more than death. Thought is subversive, and revolutionary, destructive, and terrible; thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habits; thought is anarchic and lawless, indifferent to authority, careless to the well-tried wisdom of the ages. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. ... Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man."
"The American Revolution ... was led by freethinkers; Washington and Adams, just as much as Jefferson, rejected the orthodoxy that most of their followers accepted."
"That they [religious dogmas] do little harm is not true. Opposition to birth control makes it impossible to solve the population problem and therefore postpones indefinitely all chance of world peace."
"It is clear that thought is not free if the profession of certain opinions makes it impossible to earn a living."
"I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian God may exist; so may the Gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them."
"I am myself a dissenter from all known religions, and I hope that every kind of religious belief will die out. I do not believe that, on balance, religious belief has been a force for good. ... I regard it as belonging to the infancy of human reason, and to a stage of development we are outgrowing."
"God and Satan are essentially human figures, the one a projection of ourselves, the other of our enemies."
The Rebecca Newberger Goldstein Section
"Though our species has inherited traits of selfishness and aggression, we have inherited capacities for empathy, reasoning, and learning from experience as well. We have also developed language, and with it a means to pass on the lessons we have learned from history. And so humankind has slowly reasoned its way toward a broader and more sophisticated understanding of morality, and more effective institutions for keeping peace. We make moral progress as we do scientific progress, through reasoning, experimentation, and the rejection of failed alternatives."
"Theories of the evolution of altruism by natural selection have been around for decades and are now widely supported by many kinds of evidence. A gene for being kind to one's kin, even if it hurts the person doing the favor, can be favored by evolution, because that gene would be helping a copy of itself that is shared by the kin. And a gene for conferring a large benefit to a non-relative at a cost to oneself can evolve if the favor-doer is the beneficiary of a return favor at a later time. Both parties are better off, in the long run, from the exchange of favors."
[Paraphrasing Baruch Spinoza:] "The essential thing is to expunge all aspects of the merely arbitrary. To accept arbitrariness is not just an affront to our reason, but to the infinite God. To attribute mere whim, sheer this-is-the-way-it-is-but-it-need-not-have-been-so explanations to the Infinite Intellect is blasphemy. The superstitions themselves are species of blasphemy."
"Only the most arrogant provincialism could allow someone to believe that the holy documents that happen to be held sacred by the clan he was born into are true, whereas all the documents held sacred by the clans he wasn't born into are false."
The Robert D. Shepherd Section